Photo/Illutration A notice on an “izakaya” pub in Tokyo’s Kanda district on Oct. 22 says it will resume normal operations on Oct. 25. (Yuji Yamashita)

In a near return to normalcy, Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Kanagawa and Osaka prefectures on Oct. 25 lifted most of their requests to bars and restaurants to shorten operating hours amid a rapid decline in COVID-19 cases. 

The lifting ends the nearly yearlong requests for bars and restaurants in Tokyo and Osaka to curtail their operations. 

Establishments can now serve alcohol at any time during their business hours, in principle.

However, Tokyo will continue asking businesses that are not certified by the metropolitan government as having taken appropriate infection-prevention measures to stop serving alcohol at 9 p.m.

About 102,000, or around 80 percent, of the 120,000 or so bars and restaurants in Tokyo were certified as having taken such measures as of Oct. 15.

Requests to allow only up to four guests at one table will continue in both Tokyo and Osaka, even among the certified businesses.

Kanagawa officials are asking residents to dine in a group of four or fewer people or only family members they reside with for no more than two hours.

The Tokyo metropolitan government on Nov. 1 will start using a new app that will allow businesses to confirm if customers have been vaccinated.

Those with such apps will be allowed to gather in groups of five or more at the same table at certified businesses.

In Saitama and Chiba prefectures, bars and restaurants can resume their normal business practices regardless of whether they are certified or not.

Local governments will not provide financial support to establishments that comply with these new requests since they were not issued based on the special measures law to deal with the pandemic.